CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Powered by a potent offensive attack and a strong mound effort from Pierce Johnson, the Missouri State Bears built an early nine-run lead and never looked back in a 12-2 victory over Miami in NCAA Divison I Championship action at the Coral Gables Regional Saturday afternoon. The Bears scored seven runs in the first inning to give Johnson all the support he would need to wrap up MSU’s 40th win of the season and its first in post-season play since 2003.
Keenen Maddox drove the Bears’ 15-hit attack by matching career highs with three hits and four RBIs, while Johnson established a new Missouri State record for strikeouts in a single season with a commanding eight-inning performance that helped MSU reach the 40-win plateau for the ninth time under head coach Keith Guttin.
After leaving 12 runners on base in Friday’s 2-1 loss to UCF in their opening game of the regional, the Bears came out swinging Saturday, scoring seven times on six hits in the opening frame to knock Hurricanes starting pitcher Steven Ewing out of the game. Kevin Medrano got the ball rolling with a one-out bunt single, and Brent Seifert drew a walk to set up Maddox’s double down the left-field line that staked the Bears to a 2-0 lead. A walk to Luke Voit and another bunt for a hit—this time by Brock Chaffin—preceded back-to-back run-scoring hits by Derek Mattea and Joey Hawkins. Next, Brett Marshall came through with a sacrifice fly to plate Chaffin, before MSU’s 10th hitter of the inning—Spiker Helms—capped the scoring with an RBI single to left center to make it a 7-0 game.
The Bears kept the pressure on in the second, scoring two more times when Maddox delivered his second RBI double of the game, then came around on Chaffin’s base hit to left to push the MSU margin to 9-0.
Miami answered with a two-run third inning, getting an RBI ground-out from Chantz Mack and a run-scoring single by Peter O’Brien to account for their only runs of the afternoon.
Johnson (4-6) made sure of that, setting down 10 straight Hurricane hitters and 17 of the final 18 batters he faced following O’Brien’s hit. The junior capped his day with one-two-three innings in the fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth frames, allowing just a two-out double to Rony Rodriguez in the sixth after the third inning. In the process, Johnson surpassed Chad Mulholland’s nine-year-old school record of 117 strikeouts in a single season, finishing the afternoon with 119 for the year. His seven-strikeout day pushed the Bears’ season total to 534 punchouts, which eclipsed a program record for team strikeouts in a season as well.
MSU put the game out of reach with a three-run sixth inning, highlighted by Seifert’s two-run double and Maddox’s third run-producing hit of the afternoon.
In his first mound appearance since March 20, Erik Shannahan pitched a scoreless ninth two secure the Missouri State victory—its largest in postseason play since a 23-5 win over Clemson at the 1999 Fayetteville Regional.
In addition to Maddox’s big day at the plate, the Bears got a 3-for-4 day from Chaffin, and Seifert finished 2-for-4 and scored three times to go along with his two RBIs. Medrano also produced two hits to move within seven safeties of Matt Gardner’s Missouri State career record of 316 hits.
Stephen Perez led the Hurricanes’ attack with a 2-for-4 day, and Rodriguez also added two hits for UM (36-23), which ended the season with its first 0-2 NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993.
Ewing (6-3) was tagged with the loss after giving up all seven first-inning runs and retiring just two hitters.The Bears (40-21) will take on the loser of Saturday’s second game featuring Stony Brook and UCF at 1 p.m (Central) Sunday.
Courtesy of: MSU Athletics